June 11, 1864: Grant Grove
As I have said, the Big Trees are abundant here, scattered all along between the Kings and Kaweah rivers. We are on the south branches of Kings River. Saturday we all went up on the ridges about a thousand feet above to see the largest trees. I will describe but two. The largest one standing is 106 feet in circumference at the ground and 276 feet high. But it swells out at the base, so that at twelve feet from the ground it is only seventy-five feet in circumference. It is finely formed, and you can but imperfectly imagine its majesty. It has been burned on one side, and were it entire its circumference at the base would be 116 to 120 feet!Now for the other tree. It is prostrate and no larger, but the story seems bigger. It has been burned out so that it is hollow, and we rode into it seventy-six feet and turned around easily. For forty feet three horsemen could ride in abreast, but we had but one horse along, which we took up on purpose to take this wonderful ride. Nor is it difficult, for most of the cavity is nine feet high and as wide. The greatest width is 11 feet 6 inches, and the greatest height is 11 feet 8 inches in the clear. Our horse was very gentle, and in this part I stood erect in the saddle and could just fairly reach the top! The tree is broken in two places, and fire has widened the fracture. At 120 feet from the base the tree is still 13 feet 2 inches in diameter inside of bark, and at 169 feet it is still 9 feet in diameter inside of the bark! All of these measurements were carefully made with an accurate tape line, except the height of the largest tree, which was got by measuring a base and triangulating.
There are trees of this species of every size, many being over twelve feet in diameter. Two of the smaller ones have been cut and split into fence posts—how it takes away the romance of them, using them for fence posts—and in a few years more many of the smaller ones will be sawn into lumber by the mill here!
About six miles east of this is a high bald mountain, about eight thousand feet, which we ascended, and a description of the view will answer for any of the higher points near. It commands a view of the whole western slope of the Sierra, the snowy peaks on one side, the great plain on the other.
Along the crest, twenty-five miles east, are the rugged snow-covered peaks that we hope to explore. The western slope is rough in the extreme, and both the topography and aspect are unlike anything else I have seen. The region is so very rough that I am filled with anxiety as to the possibility of reaching it. On the west the great plain stretches away to the horizon, the Coast Range being shut out by the hazy hot air that hovers over it.